ABANDONMENT OF PROPERTY
Sometimes tenants abandon a rental unit and leave behind their personal property. This could happen for various reasons; for example, a tenant moves out of province and can’t afford to take their belongings. If this happens, there are rules about what a landlord is required to do with the tenant’s belongings.
When a tenant leaves personal property in a unit:
- After the tenancy has ended and the tenant has moved out.
- That they have neither paid rent for nor lived in for at least 1 month*
- Where they have removed almost all of their belongings*
*In situations 2 and 3, the tenant is only considered to have abandoned the property if they inform the landlord verbally or in writing that they do not intend to return to the property, OR if it is unreasonable for the landlord to assume they will return.
During a tenancy, there are strict limits to when a landlord can enter the rental property. (see our page on Quiet Enjoyment). However, if the tenant has abandoned the unit as described above, the landlord is allowed to enter the property at any time. The landlord is also allowed to remove the tenant’s belongings, but must follow the requirements set out in the Residential Tenancy Regulation.
- Exercise duty of care – the landlord must be careful with the tenant’s belongings to ensure they are not damaged, lost, or stolen
- Store the property in a safe place for at least 60 days
- Keep a written list of all property
- Keep details of the removal and storage of the property for at least two years
- Upon request, advise the tenant or tenant’s representative that the property has been stored or that it has been disposed of.
There are two exceptions to the requirements listed above:
- If the landlord reasonably believes that the property has a value of less than $500, and it would cost more than $500 to remove, store, and sell it.
- If the landlord reasonably believes that storing the property would be unsafe or unsanitary.
If you decide to claim abandoned property before your landlord gets rid of it, you may have to reimburse your landlord for the cost of removing and storing it, and for providing notice of the disposition (see below). Your landlord can also require that you pay any amount of money that you legally owe, such as unpaid rent or payments ordered by the Residential Tenancy Branch. If you do not pay your landlord the required costs, they do not have to return your belongings.
After storing the items for at least 60 days, or if the exceptions described above apply, the landlord may dispose of the property if they give the tenant, and anyone who claims a security interest in the property, 30 days’ notice. A person claiming a security interest in the property is a creditor to whom the tenant still owes money. For example, a bank may have a lien on the tenant’s car if they have not fully paid off their car loan. In addition to notifying the tenant and interested parties, the landlord is required to publish the notice in a newspaper published in the same area as the rental property.
The notice must contain:
- The tenant’s name
- A description of the property
- The address of the rental property
- The landlord’s name and address
- A statement that the property will be disposed of unless the person notified takes possession, establishes a right to possession, or makes an application to the court to establish a right to possession within 30 days.
If the landlord complies with these requirements, and no one claims the property, establishes a right to possession, or applies to the court to establish a right of possession, the landlord may dispose of or sell the property. The landlord is allowed to keep the proceeds of the sale up to an amount that covers the costs of removing, storing, and selling the property, notifying all interested parties, and any money owed to the landlord by the tenant. Any proceeds beyond this amount must be paid to the administrator of the Unclaimed Property Act.